I came to Christ as a last resort after a year-long quest to find God back in 1975. With two thriving evangelical churches just a few blocks from my doorstep, why did I explore the Christian faith last instead of first? The cool factor, of course! I was a long-haired, pot-smoking keyboard player in a rock band. Eastern and New Age religion were “spiritual” and cool — Christianity definitely was not.
A couple years after I became a Christian, Bob Dylan made a profession of faith. (Wikipedia now calls it Dylan’s “Christian period.”) I was thrilled! If Dylan was a Christian, maybe I could be cool after all. In retrospect it was all so very silly. Jesus and his followers have never been cool, and we are becoming less and less so in post-Christian America today.
Consider the increasing opposition faced by Christian parachurch organizations on secular university campuses. In 2000, InterVarsity was expelled from Tufts University because the organization’s doctrinal and behavioral standards for its leaders were distinctively Christian. The political and cultural illuminati considered it discriminatory for InterVarsity to exclude non-Christians from positions of leadership. Other schools followed suit. Soon InterVarsity was no longer recognized at Harvard, Williams College, and Rutgers.
Trevin Wax elaborates:
The problem for InterVarsity wasn’t just a matter of doctrine, but of practice. It was the requirement that leaders abstain from any sexual relationship outside of biblical marriage that caused particular consternation. By asking leaders to live by Christian faith and practice, InterVarsity had run afoul of our culture’s commitment to sexual liberty.
Last year, Vanderbilt University excluded InterVarsity. Graduate student Tish Warren wrote about her experience in Christianity Today:
The line between good and evil was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad—not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.
Apparently Jesus and his followers are no longer cool on major university campuses here in “Christian” America.
Well, (the real) Jesus and his (genuine) followers have never been cool among society’s culture-makers. Here’s what one ancient elite thought about Christians:
“Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of procurator Pontius Pilate.” The resulting “disease” found its way to Rome, “where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue.”
— Roman Senator Tacitus c. 110 A.D.
You and I have a disease — a horrible and shameful one, at that!
Jesus has never been cool. And according to the Bible, this is exactly how God intended it. Here my outline from a sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 last Sunday. The title of the message was “God Is Not Cool & Neither Are We”:
God Made Himself Completely Uncool . . .
2:2 — I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
. . . And Chose For Himself Uncool People
1:26–28 — For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.
. . . By Means Of An Uncool Message
1:21-23 — It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. . . . a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.
. . . Delivered By An Uncool Preacher
2:1–4 — And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. . .I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom.
. . . So That We Could Know God
1:30 — And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
. . . And So That God Would Get The Glory
1:31 — Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
What is happening to InterVarsity is nothing new in the history of Christianity. But it’s new to American evangelicals, who are living in a post-Christian setting for the first time in our nation’s history.
So, how do we live with integrity for Jesus in a culture that increasingly marginalizes our faith? Well, we’ve done our best to try to stem the tide of post-Christendom through public policy and the political process. I’ll let you decide how well that has worked.
InterVarsity took the high road. Rather than take up arms to fight a culture war, InterVarsity students and leaders chose to embrace the shame of the cross and serve those who opposed them — just like we are commanded to do in Hebrews 13:13: Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured.
What has happened to InterVarsity’s campus ministry since? Here is it, from the Gospel Coalition blog post cited above:
Today, InterVarsity’s reports of conversion are up 172% from just ten years ago. In the past four years, InterVarsity has grown at a double-digit rate, increasing their presence on more than 100 new campuses and ministering to 40,000 students (up from 31,000).
Apparently the demise of Christendom does not mean the demise of Christianity — not for this campus ministry, at any rate.
Be encouraged! God is on the move!